What did we learn from the Australian GP?
I suppose you could say that brawn combined with
brains is unbeatable! The brilliant mind of Ross Brawn engineered
the almost unbelievable inaugural 1-2 for the Mercedes-engined Brawn
GP team, the previous time being 55 years ago when the Mercedes duo
of Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling demolished their opposition.
Jenson Button drove a well judged race and deserved his second win
of his career. There will be more, now he has a good car under him.
Barichello also drove well, making up for his goof off the starting
line, and the first corner clash with Webber. Ross Brawn’s cars are
not only fast, they are very strong. He was a bit lucky to see the
second and third placed cars take each other off three laps from
home, to elevate him to second behind his team mate.
To emphasize the dominance of the Brawn GP F1 cars, it should be
noted that their 1-2 in qualifying was done at 664 kg and 666 kg
(Button/Barichello), whilst Kubica (4th BMW) was 650 kg, Massa (6th)
was 654 kg and Raikkonen (7th) 655 kg (Ferrari), Hamilton (15th
McLaren) 655 kg and Buemi (15th Toro Rosso) weighed in at 675.5 kg.
Buemi who came in 7th at his first outing in F1 deserves a mention.
He drove an attacking race in a very average race car and beat his
more experienced team mate (Bourdais) both in qualifying and in the
race. The youngster has talent.
The other young talent is Sebastian Vettel, putting his Red Bull 3rd
on the grid after qualifying and running the entire race in what
looked like a secure 2nd position, until three laps from home. At
that point his inexperience showed when he tried to defend his
position (on shot race rubber) against the much faster BMW of Robert
Kubica (on good tyres). The resulting, and avoidable crash, put them
both out of the race. Vettel receives a 10 grid places demotion for
the next race in Malaysia. To compound his youthful indiscretion, he
(and his team) also copped a $50,000 penalty for driving around on
three wheels, trying to finish behind the safety car!
Vettel’s more experienced Red Bull team mate, Mark Webber, was taken
out on the first corner when Kovalainen (McLaren), Barichello
(Brawn), Webber, Sutil (Force India) and Heidfeld (BMW) collided.
The resultant damage putting Kovalainen out and making the damaged
cars of Heidfeld and Webber uncompetitive. It is about time the F1
drivers learned that you do not win the race at the first corner,
you only lose the race at the first corner. Lesson 1 from the Old
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton’s 3rd from starting position 18 was a
sterling effort and does show the youngster is prepared to race, not
just tour around in a quick car. The lack of performance in the
McLarens will be keeping their design team working nights and
weekends, but do not write them off.
Ferrari had a weekend to forget, and despite two quick drivers, the
Maranello red cars are currently not competitive. Massa’s car
retired with a mysterious failure and Raikkonen admitted his driver
error in scoring an unforgiving wall. Do not write Ferrari off
either. Remember their debacle last year in Australia, and the nail
biter of the season’s finish to lose the championship by one point.
Toyota lost their qualifying positions having been judged to have
illegal rear wings, but both finished well and in the points. Toyota
will get that elusive win in 2009.
Williams and Renault in the hands of Rosberg and Alonso ran strongly
mid-field. In the hands of Nakajima and Piquet they were nowhere.
Last week I asked what was the world’s first successful radial tyre? Hint - it
was 1953. It was the Michelin X, and what a breakthrough that was!
So to this week. The first manufacturer to produce a million cars anywhere was
Ford in 1922. What was the first British car to sell over one million units?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Bangkok International Motor Show
The Bangkok International Motor Show was again held in BITEC at Bang
Na. The theme chosen by the organizers was ‘Green Life on Wheels’, but the theme
chosen by the show goers was ‘What can I get into at the cheapest price?’
The lower price range was very well catered for with brands that were mainly
Chinese, though Malaysia was also a strong player at that level. Proton from
Malaysia had several models on display with prices as low as 399,000 baht for
the 1.2 liter Savvy, available on a 5 percent deposit of 1,950 baht and
repayments of less than 7,000 baht over 72 months. If you wanted to make the
deposit 20 percent, repays can be as low as 5,391 baht per month. Small change.
Whilst the Savvy does very little for me, the Proton Neo CPS is a wonderful
little pocket rocket, which reminds me of the original Cooper S. Derived from a
fairly pedestrian sedan, but looking great with wider wheels, bolt on flares,
sporty interior, and the CPS also has a roof-mounted wing! It comes in only two
colors - white and black. The white looked better.
Adjacent to the Proton stand is the Chery, with its budget QQ (yours for only
379,500 baht) having pride of place. Looks quite cute from the outside, but
don’t open the door, or you will have to face meters of cheap buff colored
plastic. The Chery concept car (the Faira) looked like a scaled down Audi TT
without the cleanliness of line, and had one of the most nauseating interiors
ever, looking as if it was designed by Walt Disney on LSD.
A Chinese import, which comes to Thailand via Malaysia, is the Naza Forza and
handled here by the revamped Yontrakit Corporation. Not only is the price low at
389,000 baht, but the 19,450 baht deposit can also be split into 10 payments of
1,950 baht. However, like the Chery QQ, don’t open the door. Also on the
Yontrakit stand was the Kia Picanto, in which you could drive away by leaving a
deposit of 2,950 baht. You spend more than that on a dinner and a good bottle of
Still in the budget end of the market is Wuling, now in their third year in
Thailand and represented by PVA Motors. The Wuling Scorpion small truck has been
around for a while now, but at a show price of under 300,000 baht has to be a
bargain in anyone’s language. And you don’t have to speak Mandarin. The Wuling
Hongtu is a new seven-seater minibus, which is yours for 399,000 baht,
definitely worth a look if you are in the hospitality business, with sliding
doors on each side as well as the rear tailgate.
The ‘green’ part of the show was covered by Toyota with a concept car called the
A-Bat and their new Prius, and by Honda with the new Insight and Lexus with the
SUV LX 450h. These were all hybrids. There were a few electric vehicles as well,
but most of the enlarged open golf cart variety, and not practical as far as
urban transport is concerned.
If you are only looking for high end and exotics you will be disappointed in the
main halls, as there was no official representation from Ferrari, Lamborghini,
Maserati, Bentley, R-R, Porsche and the like. This is understandable in the
light of the world’s economic woes. Who is spending 20 million baht to park at
the side of the road these days? However, for all the Daniel Craig / James Bond
fans, you can rent a black Aston Martin DBS from Master Car Rental people and
impress the girls in several sois in Chiang Mai. However, your dream has a price
- 455,000 baht rent per month, with a contract of five years.
In the audio and accessories sections there were a few exotics, including
Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ford GT, a wonderful black Nissan Skyline, Porsches, a
Hummer H3 and even a Fiat 500.
One manufacturer which had some really desirable vehicles was VW, represented by
Thai Yarnon. Unfortunately, they had the “new” (now old) Beetle at the front and
it was easy to miss the very svelte black Scirocco. This looks like an enlarged
Golf and would be my pick if I had to choose anything around the 2.5 million
baht range. Far nicer than the Mini variants, for example. Along from the
Scirocco was the new Passat CC, which at 2.59 million is any match for the BMW 3
series as far as looks is concerned.
BMW had their usual large display with elegant women and cars arranged in rows,
but lacking any imagination. The 1 Series is not just plain, it is plain ugly,
looking like a 3 Series that had a head-on and repaired by a backyarder
up-country who didn’t quite get it right. The new 7 Series was presented in
white, with larger nostrils and the Bangle Bustle toned down. Nothing to go
‘gasp’ over, I’m afraid.
More of the Bangkok International Motor Show next week, plus a rundown on the
better motorcycles from the Isle of Man specialist Alan Coates.
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